The name of Putin’s possible successor in the Kremlin is impossible to know, because the man himself doesn’t seem to prepare his exit. Anyone serious enough to claim their ambition would subject themselves to serious adversity.
However, based on the Russian and Soviet history, we may predict where to look for this person’s name. This will be someone who combines all of the following three attributes:
- He knows how to lie low and bid his/her time. “Don’t look conspicuous, it draws fire / Try to look unimportant, they may be low on ammo.” (—Murphy’s Laws of Combat).
- He is a part of Putin’s inner circle, or someone a step or two lower on the ladder, with a noticeable performance record in the state bureaucracy.
- He is personally very wealthy, or has access to an ample war chest through his family or personal friends.
This person may come to power either immediately after Putin, or as a successor after one or two transitional figures, like Dmitri Medvedev. Medvedev himself is too weak and doesn’t have his own power base).
There is also some chance of a “non-systemic” opposition leader coming to power (think Alexey Navalny). But this requires a physical removal of Putin from the Kremlin, which may happen only as a result of a dramatic split in his inner circle. Right now, I consider the chance of it considerably less than 0.1.